The Definitive Guide to Unorthodox, Unusual and Avant-Garde Extreme Metal


Abr 7 2010, 21h44


Sure, it's Demilich worship, but man, if the world doesn't need more of that! The main difference you'll notice is that A) they're still around (though to their own detriment unfortunately), B) the vocals are much more conventional, though no less effective and entertaining and C) the music is significantly more aggressive and violent sounding. Strange riffs and constant surprises are part and parcel with the Adramelech sound. Although they lost their way after 'Psychostasia' in terms of full-length albums, the reason this band is here instead of the individual album pile, is because of the fantastic EPs 'Seven' and 'The Fall' which are absolute must haves, and can be found coupled with copies of 'Psychostasia'.


Immensely entertaining and always fascinating, the best thing I've heard about this band is that they always make unique songs which are very diverse yet stick to a certain degree formula to keep things consistent. This band has got to be one of the best modern death metal bands of the recent decade and their latest album is the best example of their style so get it asap.


I've only heard snippets of their first LP but it's not of particularly high quality, especially when compared to their sophomore effort, Warring Factions. This album retains a touch of the first albums black metal tendencies so it barely scrapes onto this particular list but it would be a crime to not include it anyway. Progressive with many odd influences including, well, everything from hoe-downs to saxophones to god-knows what, I strongly recommend you look into this band.


Anything featuring Garm of Ulver fame (and much, much more) should be relatively unusual... but this is kind of like where Ulver would have gone if he had kept them on a metal path. It's very hard to describe but thankfully, not quite as hard as getting into the music. It may seem unusual, but give it time. It'll grow.

Also, while the 'extreme metal' aspect of this band is debatable, the quality is not.


Atheist probably don't need any explanation, but for those sheltered metalheads who, somehow, haven't heard them yet it's fantastic. Insanely technical progressive death metal with generous helpings of jazz fusion (and a touch of thrash possibly because they were such an early DM band) make this bands music utterly enthralling and hugely humbling. Also essential for bass players of any particular genre.

Blotted Science

Bass wiz Alex Webster, avant-douche Ron Jarzombek, and superb drummer Charlie Zeleny in a prog instrumental death blender? Yes Please! Extremely competent yet strangely memorable songs spell victory for this (so far) single album band.

The Chasm

A Mexican mash-up of all sorts of metal subgenres, this extremely consistent band is definately one of the best progressive metal bands out there and vocalist Daniel Corchado writes some of the most fantastic riffs you'll ever hear . Almost all of their albums are essential listening for those who want to expand their idea of great metal.


Although I have only heard a handful of songs from their previous album (which is so far fantastic) Cobalt definitely smashed their way to the top of the 2009 pack with this sludgy progressive BM gem. Packed with great riffs, ridiculously powerful drums, ferocious vocals and a perfect 'organic' production job. The lead singer also serves in the US Marine Corp. which is pretty badass.


Cynic and Meshuggah in a blender. The result is this pleasingly memorable jazzy prog death outfit (from Chile, no less) who have done great things with their influences. Whilst not particularly groundbreaking, there's more than enough quality songwriting and musicianship on their latest offering, 'Unorthodox Creative Criteria' (also have look for the bonus tracks, they're great).

Deathspell Omega

Yet another band who's legend significantly precedes them. Besides their first two albums these Frenchmen have been breaking black metal boundaries left, right and centre. Prog BM is generally their calling card, with healthy amounts of weirdness and avant-gardery to keep things from ever going stale. This band truly does black metal as an artform. The definition (if not the measuring stick) for experimental BM.


Easily the best 'Belch' metal I've ever heard. Joking aside, these Finns only made one album, 'Nespithe' ('The Spine' - geddit? I'm sure you can figure it out!), but goodness, did it have long-term impressions (it was extremely obscure until it's resurfacing on the internet in 1999) on the death metal community. The vocalist sounds like he was drinking between recording the songs and the guitars have a bizarre 'liquid' like tone but all these odd aspects really do is give (even more) identity to an already ethereal, entrancing death metal legend.

"This album is mandatory listening for every death metal fan. Every single one."

Diabolical Masquerade

Created by Blakkheim (Anders Nyström of Katatonia fame), and featuring uber-prolific death maestro Dan Swanö (I don't need to tell you who he is, do I!?), this avant-black outfit create extremely fruity sounding progressive symphonic BM and create it well. Their two latest offerings are what I highly recommend, but don't hesitate to pick their first two as well ('Ravendusk in My Heart' and 'The Phantom Lodge').

Also, the album 'Death's Design' was designed for a short film that Blakkheim almost made. Cool, huh?


Gargantuan riff. Immediately you notice the crushing production. Drums slam their way through the rhythmic guitar barrage. Okay you think, pretty heavy death doom... a rapid fire staccato blast-beat begins to thunder all of a sudden, while a siren-like clean picked electric lead soars over the pounding kit before retiring to a more conventional, but no less brilliant, death doom rhythm. In the space of a minute and a half and you know you're in for a treat. Effortlessly combining death doom and funeral doom (and somehow perfectly balancing) and packing a few neat little surprises here and there make this single-album band an instant winner, all topped off with Renato Gallina's unforgettable vocal performance plus a terrifying production job. This album defines depressing (and paralyzingly scary) metal. Don't listen to this at night!

Fredrik Thordendal's Special Defects

More complete nonsense cannot be found than on this utterly insane jazzed-up experimental prog metal by Meshuggah guitarist Frederik Thordendal. Many have claimed that this single album by him is better than his main band, and this claim may not be completely unfounded, considering Meshuggah tend to be far too repetitive and narrow-minded for my tastes. But not Frederik! Man's a genius.


Obviously Gorguts worship (the first track even has a Tom Morello-esque guitar lead, like the introductory title track from 'Obscura'!), but to be fair they do it rather well. I can imagine Gorguts fanatics will want to find more music that sounds similar seeing as they (Gorguts) haven't released an album in 9 years, so go ahead and engage in some more avant-death wackiness, people, please.


THE definitive avant-garde death metal band? Possibly. Among the best of the afore-mentioned genre(s)? Easily! Whether you love it or hate it (my friend hated it, but he also hates bass guitars so fuck him) this is pretty much the benchmark against which all other weird DM gets measured. In fact, it's so good that it's scary. Literally. Combining arrhythmic bass lines, unsettling, positively alien guitar wizardry, the ghost-like vocal wails of Luc Lemay (aka genius) and unruly and compellingly energetic drum patterns, this bands importance within death metal simply cannot be understated. Beware however, they are truly and completely... uncomfortable.


I thought, at one point in my metal career, that Immolation was basically death metal for elitist arseholes. I didn't get it. Their music seemed so ordinary and their production styles annoyed me. But like most major bands that everybody else likes except for you (we've all got one) Immolation stayed in my mind for weeks. The more I played the opening riffs from 'Higher Coward' and 'Father, You're Not a Father' in my head, the more I began to realize I'd stumbled onto a very special band. Immediately, I crawled back to one of their most revered and popular albums 'Close to a World Below' and somehow I listened to all the way through without any pauses. Odd riffing, hellish vocals and a VERY off-kilter sense of melody are just the beginning with one of the best death metal bands in history.


Featuring avant-garde guitarist Mike Barr and Colin Marston who has worked with Barr in the past (he also joined Gorguts in 2009), this unusual progressive black metal band from New York are certainly a force to be reckoned with. Despite wearing some of their influences a bit too blatantly (Weakling, anyone?) and having tracks that seem longer than what they are they can still pack an impressive punch. Combining exhausting tremolo picking and sludge metal style shrieks, this band is one to watch.


This one-man band created by Jef Whitehead (aka 'Wrest') has gained a huge amount of notoriety for his uncanny ability to cram as many unusual bits and pieces into his work as possible, not to mention his incredible amount of output (10+ demos!). Progressive yet atmospheric, unsettling yet entertaining and most importantly, FRESH black metal is on display here. Even though all of his work is coated in a subdued, dull sound, don't let all of those all too common prejudices about under-produced music keep you from listening to one of the most important people in USBM today.

Lurker Of Chalice

Conveniently placed after his previous band, Wrest's second effort Lurker of Chalice has only had one album so far but that's all he needs to show that his musical progression has reached even more advanced heights than what could be found on any of Leviathans records. His self-titled debut is more dark ambient than full-on BM but nonetheless still possesses massive character and will suck you into it's dreary depths in no time.

The limited edition features a bonus track 'Wail', which I highly recommend because it adds a lot to the record (it's a revision of the first track on the album).

Lykathea Aflame

This Czech band has become pretty famous because of their first (and only) release. Many have lauded the progressive-avant-garde-brutal-technical-deathgrind (whew) mash-up, Elvenefris, for it's freshness and innovation, while some have criticized it for being messy and overly convoluted. While both sides of the fence raise accurate and important opinions/concerns, the majority is certainly in favour of this album. As am I. Sure, it IS messy and convoluted, but maybe that's what makes it so immensely entertaining?

Ultimately, this is an album that can only be judged on case by case basis. Either way, it would be a crime to not include this on the list, if only for it's genuine creativity.

maudlin of the Well

Certainly one of my personal favourites, this fantastic band led by all round nut-job Toby Driver, is one the most important bands on this list because this is the band to listen to if you are looking for a good starting point in avant-garde metal. Best of all, this band are not just odd, they also manage to merge all sorts of genres into it: death, doom, progressive metal, progressive rock, avant-prog, post-rock and probably more that I've forgotten about.

Also worth mentioning is that now that the band reunited in 2009, their latest album is a far cry from their metal days, but still very much worth picking up (IT'S LEGALLY FREE TO DOWNLOAD!)


This band is an interesting case. They combine their own peculiar and very harsh brand of progressive brutal technical death metal with a 'war metal' production job whereby the drums and vocals are generally pushed to front while the guitars are held back somewhat, making for a very uncomfortable listen, in fact it probably competes with Gorguts for the most unsettling band on this list (but where Gorguts use bizarre and otherworldly elements to frighten, Mitochondrian have a brutish, extremely unforgiving hostility that will put your endurance to the test). But this really isn't a band you want to miss, and seeing as there is a new EP on the horizon, it looks like they're only just getting started.


This American black metal band is somewhat less innovative and unique than a lot of other bands on this list but there are some very unusual aspects to their sound nonetheless, such as their main selling point: injecting psychedelia into black metal. What's even more interesting is how well they pull it off, because it's not just a gimmick. There are the obvious things like the very synth-y, winding, echo-laden 60's style guitar solos and leads, but then there are the things like the warm, dulled production values and obviously, the black metal foundation, which all help to make a very hazy, hypnotic atmosphere. Very interesting...


Progressive tech death with a kind of cheesy, 50's style science fiction appeal that's actually quite entertaining if you can tolerate it. Although their first album is far and away their best, their style is continued throughout their later albums, which is why Nocturnus are in the 'Album' section. Definitely a case-by-case style band, some people love them, others don't. Alas, the perils of attempting to be creative!


Intensely unusual melodic death/black metal with lots of progressive and electronic touches are the base ingredients for this incredible band. Coupling their musical versatility with sensible songwriting and musicianship, Oblomov had a late contender for metal album of 2009 with their latest offering 'Communitatis', which I knew, barely after a single listen, was something immensely special. This criminally unheard of group represents everything that is good about avant-garde extreme metal, whilst trimming the flab of self-importance and pretense.


A madcap progressive death-doom band created by Dan Swanö and his friends (not to mention his brother Dag Swanö on sax) this band features such extremities as having no lyrics at all, for ANY release, sometimes leaving song titles out too. Combining the metal with a full-time saxophonist certainly makes it more entertaining, if not always memorable. Regardless of these oddities, at least the first and last albums are definitely worth looking into.


One of my personal favourites off this list, Phlebotomized are a Dutch outfit specializing in off-centre prog death, and although their last album contains significantly less DM, there's still enough there to warrant this band a place in the list. Truly innovative, this group actually made more of an impression on me with their less deathy album 'Skycontact', but 'Immense, Intense, Suspense' is not quite as obscure. They combine fantastic keyboards (sometimes violins!), great singing and a sometimes simplistic (but not basic) rhythm section to ensure accessibility and craft incredibly compelling tunes. Highly recommended.


David Lynch metal?

Often frightening, always eerie, this Australian band create (I should say summon) ridiculously under-produced, dense, claustrophobic and most importantly, surreal blackened death metal, which is hugely innovative these days (or ever, actually). Although there have been some fierce debates on this site about whether the music is actually any good, I can say for certain that this band requires patience to fully appreciate, with a little bit of open-mindedness. But really, you'll have to listen and decide for yourself!

The Ruins of Beverast

Another band with only one member, Alexander von Meilenwald was well known for his ambient-infused melancholic atmospheric black metal, as well as adding all sorts of little electronic/synth/keyboard touches here, not to mention his trademark interludes (which quite adeptly, showcase his unusual samples and, well, noises), which all aided his acclaimed second and third albums, 'Unlock the Shrine' and 'Rains Upon the Impure'. But with his 2009 offering, he upped the game on everything that was inherent in his sound, including making it doomier and expanding the keyboard textures to encompass entire sections of music as opposed to bits here and there. Add to that some fantastic riffs, and you have yet another excellent band/artist to keep an eye on.


Founded by Agalloch members, Don Anderson and Jason Walton, this fascinating (but by no means perfect) group craft exquisite prog-death involving unconventional instruments like saxophones and violins but it's their last two albums 'Apollo Ends' and 'Embodiment' that incorporate a more profound avant-garde streak. Combining their original sound with new elements like longer, more complex song structures, and adding even more instruments not least the omnipresent keyboard, this band is technically competent but opinions are divided over their songwriting skill. Decide for yourself!

Septic Flesh

Whilst not amazingly inventive as of their last two albums, Septic Flesh have always made off-center, tempo-juggling, death metal in some form or another, be it the dream-like atmospheric DM of their first 3 albums ('Mystic Places of Dawn', 'Esoptron', 'Ophidian Wheel'), the gothic death of their middle two('A Fallen Temple', 'Revolution DNA'), the industrialized intensity of 'Sumerian Daemons' or the orchestral brutality of 2008's 'Communion', Septic Flesh are not group to be skipped over, regardless of what metal subgenres you prefer. An Immensely entertaining band, this is one of the few occasions where listening retrospectively is recommended for first-timers. Amazing.


Pleasingly modern and well-performed and produced, this band is probably the only one of it's kind on this list. Are you ready... for progressive brutal nu-metal? Seriously though this is very entertaining album, featuring the best songwriting this side of Mudvayne. Speaking of which, the best way to sum up these guys is to think of Mudvayne not crapping out after L.D.50. Interesting...


Well, anyone who's heard the terms 'avant-garde' and 'metal' in the same sentence, should have also heard about these Japanese nutters. These charming lads (and lass) are among the most famous avant-garde metal bands of all time and it's no surprise. Mixing progressive symphonic black metal with... well, almost anything else that's considered musical, Sigh deserve all of the notoriety and infamy they can get, not to mention all the praise that inevitably gets heaped upon them.

Skeleton Of God

Well... this is an unusual one (which is no mean feat on this list!). Think slightly doom-y death metal with a pile of psychedelic and stoner elements (as well as a whole repertoire of strange noises and god-only-knows what), and you might come up what Skeleton of God perform, though with an curiously ever present brutal touch to it, though more it's more common on their early EPs than 'Primordial Dominion', their first and only (to date) album. Good luck finding 'em!

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum

Possibly the least metal band on this list though up with the most intense, these fruity Californians have got avant-wackiness down to a fine art. Their work sounds like a disturbing and macabre carnival (or something), with bombastic orchestral passages, dual vocalists, incredible bass licks this is a fantastic group to get into if you're not looking for particularly extreme avant-garde.


Exceptionally violent and bizarre, this progressive technical deathgrind outfit (from the Czech Republic no less) has creativity to burn, evidenced by their last two albums in particular, 'Pod Vládou Biče' and 'Řád A Trest'. If you're looking for an extremely aggresive form of avant-wackiness then, well, look no further!


Unfortunately this band broke up long ago, but they still managed to release two demo EPs, 'Tumultuous Travelings' and my favourite 'Panaramic Twilight' (yeah, I think they had a few spelling issues), which are some prime snippets of VERY forward thinking DM. Just have a listen to the song 'Boiling In The Hourglass' and you'll get it ("I AM A GOD!!!").

IMPORTANT NOTE: You can legally download these two EPs on!

Thy Catafalque

A Hungarian band that has only recently found some (relatively) serious accliam with their latest album 'Róka Hasa Rádió', but have been around since 1998, producing decent albums. Their latest work features trip-hop heavy electronica mixed with progressive (and surprisingly aggressive) BM, not to mention an drum 'n' bass production style. A band worthy of your full attention!


FINALLY! A New Zealand metal band that isn't a shitty Sham-of-God rip-off!

Seriously though, this my otherwise very decent home country is rife with inebriated, groove-tastic pole-smokers, so it's refreshing to hear from a band that not only surpasses every other metal band in the country (not amazing), but are actually surprisingly strong in an international market. Their trick is to fuse their not inconsiderable brutal technical death talents with downbeat, sludgy passages, whilst writing their songs in a way that forgoes the drudgery of conventional structure, resulting in an atmosphere that isn't pigheadedly 'brutal' like soooo many other BDM bands, but instead is actually quite depressing and alarming (refreshing, believe it or not). Think Godflesh meets Suffocation (but with a decent production job for a change!). I hope this kind of brutal death becomes the way forward for an otherwise exhausted subgenre.


  • josh853

    nicely written ,bands i know are awesome will check out some of the ones i dont

    Abr 8 2010, 18h23
  • dukey42

    there are some new shit for me here, I'll definitely check them out

    Abr 9 2010, 9h03
  • Master_ov_Khaos

    Good list. Have you ever heard A Forest of Stars?

    Abr 12 2010, 17h26
  • chucknorr1s

    Seems to be a great selection of bands. I'm addicted to many of the bands mentioned above but there are some I haven't heard of. I might check them out soon. Anyways good taste in metal and thanks for this entry!

    Abr 12 2010, 17h54
  • ORalston

    @Master I have and i'll add them once i've listened to them, thanks for the comments! @chuck Thanks! I recommend every band on here!

    Abr 12 2010, 23h34
  • Moloch_777

    where's Dodheimsgard ?

    Abr 22 2010, 13h20
  • chucknorr1s

    I´ve re-read this journal and at this point I have to adjust this statement "Anyways good taste in metal " You´re probably one of the very rare persons where I can really say that your taste in metal absolutely amazing and very similar to mine. I want to recommend you some bands / albums that you will surely like: 1) Altar of Plagues - White Tomb This Irish Black Metal from 2009 but it´s more than the average KVLT band. Includes progressive and doomy elements and the vocals are really powerful and moving. There are not many albums that I have herad that create a more intense and dense atmosphere than this. 2) Negura Bunget - Om Band from Romania with lyrics in their native language. This can be described as a mixture of Folk and Black metal with various other inflences and creates an atmosphere which is absolutely on par with the album above. Even the intro scared the shit out of me at the first listening. 3) Ahab - The Call of the Wretched Sea German Doom-Metal. They regard themselves as Nautik Funeral Doom Metal because their lyrics deal about Cpt. Ahab and his fight against Moby Dick. The atmosphere creates the deepest abyss of the oceans in your imagination and I consider it as one of the heaviest doom metal I´ve ever heard (right after diSEMBOWELMENT)

    Abr 22 2010, 15h31
  • Kimmens

    nice list & awesome taste in music.

    Abr 25 2010, 13h50
  • ArjunArman45

    just wanted to say that this is a great list again! just one question, how is Elvenefris messy and convoluted in any way? If anything it is one of the effortlessly played and earnestly received albums ever

    Abr 27 2010, 6h37
  • theemessiah

    Holy christ, this list is good

    Mai 8 2010, 12h44
  • PiecesOfQuiet

    you forgot gnaw their tongues

    Mai 25 2010, 2h30
  • SP420

    Wow. Impressed. You covered a massive range of absolutely impressive gems of the metal world. Great to see Thy Catafalque on here.

    Mai 27 2010, 2h43
  • PiecesOfQuiet

    also: spektre and blut aus nord

    Mai 29 2010, 2h36
  • kurashu

    May benefit from Kekal. However, they have strayed far and away from their metal roots. Also: Why no Sigh?

    Mai 31 2010, 1h41
  • kurashu

    I neglected to see Sigh the first time I read this. >_>

    Mai 31 2010, 17h38
  • ASSMan316

    David Lynch metal! hahahaha. yes nice job son!

    Jun 29 2010, 8h06
  • NuttersaurusRex

    Thanks for this list, I've been going back to it to find new music since I joined

    Dez 1 2010, 4h27
  • ekesner

    Nice job.

    Jan 3 2011, 5h12
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